Which is More Important? Social Media Marketing or SEO?

Do you find yourself asking this question more often these days?

I think it’s almost impossible to say that Social Media Marketing is more important than SEO or vice versa. They are both an important part of a search engine marketing strategy and which one is “more” important depends on many factors. The reality is that, while they are two different animals, they are becoming more interrelated and interdependent.

The first thing I had to get clear in my head was the difference between the two, I kept blurring them together because the main objective of both is to drive qualified traffic to a website property whether it be a website or a blog.  I try to remember to use the word “quality” in front of traffic as a reminder to myself about what’s important.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that 30 visits from visitors that have a potential need for the services I provide is far better than 3,000 visitors who just enjoy reading an interesting story.

Search Engine Marketing

  • Driving traffic to websites from Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
  • Optimizing a variety of variables such as content, website structure, as well as internal and external links (just to name a few) to increase the visibility and position on a SERP.

Social Media Marketing

  • Driving traffic to websites from Social Media Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pintrest.
  • Generating and promoting content that provides and encourages readers to share it with their networks and drive traffic to your website.
  • Creating and exchanging user-generated-content (UCG) e.g. product reviews and comments.

Google is constantly innovating and changing the algorithms that determine what is displayed in search results based on both the behavior of searchers and to continuously improve the quality and relevancy of the results. In 2010 Google began incorporating UGC within search results pages because they saw that it was important to consumers.  It’s one of the changes that has had a major impact and is one of many reasons we need to think differently about Social Media Marketing and SEO.

Not only is user generated content important to consumers it has become a key ingredient when it comes to being ‘found’ in search engine results.  Chris Stutzman, Forrester Vice President, Principal Analyst reports that, “25% of search results for the world’s 20 largest brands are linked to user generated content.”[1]

Social Media Marketing and SEO, Internet diagramIn many organizations the SEO and Social Media efforts are completely separate, and may be unknowingly undermining each others efforts.

If the social media advocate is creating content that is low quality, contains links to poor quality sites or isn’t optimized for the right keyword phrases, it could be undoing the SEO efforts.

Likewise, if the SEO efforts are done in a vacuum, and lack insight into what content is engaging the most readers in the social media platforms, they may be optimizing for the wrong things.

If the social media marketer is doing their job, they are listening at least as much if not more than they’re talking and they are in tune with the problems customers are having.  In turn they are generating and promoting content that answers questions and helps their readers solve problems.  In order to do this, they need to understand how to create content that is optimized for search engines.

If the search engine optimizer is doing their job, they’re researching keywords that should be incorporated into the content and help increase visibility and drive traffic.  I’m not sure how they can do a good job at this if they don’t know what questions customers are asking.

User generated content is only going to become more important. An effective overall search engine marketing strategy takes into consideration the roles that social media marketing and SEO play in driving traffic to a website and maximizes the synergies between the two.

What do you think?  Is one more important than the other?

[1] AdAge CMO Strategy, “How Healthy is Your Brand?” – May 2011

Learn more about how search engine optimization and social media marketing can improve your visibility in search engine results at a hands on workshop.